Antarctic Fire Angels and UWE Bristol join forces to empower the future workforce

Media Relations Team, 25 September 2023

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Antarctic Fire Angels
Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe, the Antarctic Fire Angels

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is teaming up with the Antarctic Fire Angels for a special event on 4 October 2023 to inspire others to achieve their ambitions through adversity and to break gender barriers in the workplace.

The Antarctic Fire Angels are two female adventuring firefighters – Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe – who will ski 1,130 km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole in November 2023: their motivation is to 'show what women are capable of'.

They’ll join a panel of UWE Bristol and industry experts on Wednesday 4 October at the ‘Women doing extraordinary things: empowering the future workforce’ event, where guests can hear directly from Georgina and Rebecca and the panel about their experiences of equality within the workplace, challenging gender stereotypes, and the barriers women face when entering traditionally male dominated industries.

Already signed up as panellists are:

  • Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe, the Antarctic Fire Angels
  • Dr Barbara Brown, diversity and inclusion strategist
  • Jo Midgley, UWE Bristol Registrar and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience)
  • Professor Hazel Conley, UWE Bristol Professor of Human Resource Management
  • Dr Sarah-Louise Weller, UWE Bristol Associate Director, Student Academic Journey (Postgraduate Business and Management programmes)
  • Dan Wood, UWE Bristol Chief People Officer

The evening event will take place at Bristol Business School at the university’s Frenchay campus from 18:00 – 21:00. Tickets are available to book online.

Prior to the talk, there will be an opportunity to take part in a workshop between 15:30 – 17:00 alongside the Antarctic Fire Angels and some of the panel of experts.

The workshop will encourage a discussion around gender stereotypes and the barriers facing women in male dominated sectors, with the goal of establishing a network of women who work in these sectors. Additional tickets for the workshop are required and are available to book online.

Gender equality is the focus of a number of research projects by the Human Resources, Work and Employment research group (HRWE) at UWE Bristol.

Dr Sarah-Louise Weller, Associate Director, Student Academic Journey (Postgraduate Business and Management Programmes), is currently conducting research that explores women’s experiences in the workplace. She said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer the opportunity to hear directly from the Antarctic Fire Angels and how they are striving to break down the barriers women face in male dominated sectors.

“The under-representation of women in traditionally male dominated disciplines, for example, STEM, aviation, and defence, is well documented, alongside the associated challenges of the gender pay gap and ‘glass ceiling’. Furthermore, women who work in male dominated industries face discriminatory attitudes and behaviours, as well as inequalities relating to their career progression choices, balancing caring or parental commitments, and a lack of support for menopause or other female health issues.”

Antarctic Fire Angels co-founder Georgina added: “We are incredibly grateful to UWE Bristol for providing this platform where we can discuss not only the expedition and our why for doing such an epic trek, but to also discuss the challenges women face working in male dominated jobs. Meeting like-minded people will result in a positive outcome on achieving parity in the workplace.” 

The Antarctic Fire Angels are currently training to ski 1,130 km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole in November 2023. The journey will be unassisted and unsupported, pulling 85kg supply sleds in temperatures as low as -50c, with possible wind speeds of over 60 mph. This has never been achieved by an Emergency Services team before. By conquering this expedition, the Antarctic Fire Angels hope to inspire and empower women and girls to achieve their ambitions.

The Antarctic Fire Angels are fundraising to support their expedition. More information on their expedition and how to donate is available on their website.

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